Welcome Speech by Dr N Varaprasad, Chief Executive, National Library Board at Customer Appreciation Day 2010, at Central Public Library on 1 September 2010 at 7.30PM

Release Date : 01 Sep 2010

Ladies and gentlemen,

1. Good evening to all of you, and thank you for joining us at our fifth Customer Appreciation Day. Before I begin, let me first wish all the teachers and educators here, a Happy Teacher's Day.

Customer Appreciation Day 2010

2. Since 2006, we have been organising this annual event as a way to thank our customers for their support of the National Library Board's (NLB) network of libraries throughout the years. It is through your support that we are able to grow our libraries into world-class institutions, which have successfully leveraged on technology to bring many benefits to you, our customer and patron.

3. If you were a frequent visitor of our libraries, you would notice that we are continuously engaging our customers – be it as readers, knowledge seekers or partners in developing and improving our services. This is because we view ourselves as more than just repositories of knowledge but as your knowledge companions.

4. With the advent of new technologies and the myriad of social networking tools, many have turned to the digital media to access and retrieve information. Not only have these new technologies enhanced the interactivity and richness of the reading experience, it has also transformed the role of the customer from just a consumer passively receiving information to an active contributor, giving rise to the term, prosumers – producer and consumer at the same time.

5. At the NLB, we recognise the challenges and the opportunities that are brought about by these new technologies and have harnessed them to enhance your library-going experience.

New Services and Resources which Benefit Customers

6. For example, customers can now search, browse and retrieve full-text news content from as many as 17 archived newspapers through the multimedia stations at the National Library Board's (NLB) network of libraries, as well as from home. This has been made possible by NewspaperSG, an online service initiative of the National Library which provides library patrons access to selected full text archived news content through the Internet. This service has proven to be a boon to our customers doing research on Singapore history because it certainly allows them to locate their information much faster instead of manually sieving through microfilms.

7. Another initiative by the NLB, which has led to improvements in the customer experience is the provision of the new mobile service termed Library in Your Pocket. A free web-based application, Library in Your Pocket allows anyone on the move quick, easy and convenient access to popular library services on their smart phone. With Library in Your Pocket, anyone with Internet-enabled mobile phones could gain immediate access to information, wherever they may be, even when they are overseas. This is further complemented by our “myLibrary” Facebook application, which allows you to keep abreast of the latest library events and developments as well as new book arrivals. You can also share information with your Facebook through the posting of comments and instantly share the information with your friends.

8. Even as we engage our users online through the wide availability of e-resources, which include e-books, we are also constantly finding new ways to raise the public's interest in reading because making resources available is not enough. We need to continually engage the public to read more. One innovative programme by the Public Libraries – Quest – targeted at reluctant readers, has seen tremendous success since it was introduced last year. Our ongoing reading initiatives such as READ! Singapore has also continued to break new grounds by incorporating digital elements into its programming mix. The recently held Book Exchange and the Library Book Sale have also garnered strong interest and were well-attended. Such display of strong support from the community attests to the relevance of these programmes to the public and community.

9. I am also happy to say that the strong support and usage of our public libraries has made it possible for NLB to establish two more public libraries in the heartlands, opening next year in 2011. These libraries will add to our current network of 22 Public Libraries, bringing it to a total of 24. Serangoon Public Library will be opened in March 2011. It will be located within the nex shopping centre, a mega, eco-friendly mall with links to the new 16-bay Serangoon Bus Interchange and the train stations of the Circle line and the existing North East line. Clementi Public Library, located within Clementi Mall, is targeted to open middle of next year. The mall is directly linked to Clementi MRT Station and the bus interchange. These libraries will serve the informational, educational and recreational needs of the residents living in these areas as well as the community beyond the immediate heartland. Without the community's support and usage of the libraries, this would not have been possible.

Role of Volunteers and Role Models in Promoting Our Services and Resources

10. At the same time, we also need the support of the community to enhance the learning experience of our customers. There is a strong group of people who helps to promote our services to members of the public. My appreciation goes to these volunteers – the Friends of Library, who have played an active role in this. They definitely have gone the extra mile to be our ambassadors. Our volunteers have been essential and important in ensuring that we continue to reach out to all segments of the community, including the underserved.

11. There is also another group of people who also deserve special mention, our role models who have displayed good library etiquette. These role models are important in emphasising that all of us, users as well as providers, have a stake in the ownership of the libraries as social learning spaces and therefore should not engage in inappropriate behaviour such as sleeping, monopolising the newspapers, blocking the passageways, or talking loudly on their mobile phones. These role models are our advocates and ambassadors and through their support, we hope to reach out to more people and encourage them to inculcate positive traits and habits.

12. Another group that we are recognising would be the top borrowers in the adult, children, young people and seniors age group. Let me stress that this is not just a numbers game but rather it is to commend those who have demonstrated the importance of reading within their various communities.

NLB Celebrates 15 Years with You

13. To recognise the support of our customers, we have organised a series of activities, which are meant to engage and inspire all of you to play an active role in our libraries. From today till the end of the month, you can look forward to a host of exciting activities happening at the National Library and the 22 Public Libraries in celebration of Customer Appreciation Day 2010. The series of activities are particularly meaningful as NLB also turns 15 this year. As such, you would notice the number '15' featured prominently in many of the initiatives and activities. Some examples of these activities include the NLB's 15-Year Milestones Display outlining the developments in our history. These milestones not only highlight how our libraries have featured prominently in the lives of the community but also how the library going experience has been changed and transformed over the years with innovative use of technology and support from our partners.

14. You will also have the opportunity this month to view 15 treasures from the National Library's rare materials collection, including a letter written by Sir Stamford Raffles which dates back to 1819 on the earliest development of Singapore as well as his vision of how Singapore could develop. Another item is the Will and Testament of early Singapore pioneer, Tan Kim Seng, which dates back to 1863 from the Koh Seow Chuan Collection. I believe that you will gain many insights of this collection and urge you to join in the exclusive guided tours, which have been specially arranged only in September.

15. Our 22 Public Libraries have also organised a series of fun-filled activities and these include special promotions. Some of these include a promotion where library users will receive a limited edition anniversary gift, while stocks last, when they borrow a total of 15 items in the month of September. And to encourage more members to sign up as new library members, we have also prepared a membership kit to provide you with all the services and initiatives that are available. I encourage you to be part of our 15th anniversary celebrations and participate in the activities that we have lined up.


16. At this point, I would like to convey my appreciation to all our customers who have supported us in our efforts and for taking time to be here with us today. I would also like to thank our staff who have organised and planned these activities for it is their dedication that our customers can enjoy a conducive learning experience at our libraries.

17. Let me conclude by wishing you an enjoyable evening and year ahead at our libraries and we look forward to growing and improving with you on this lifelong learning journey together. You may have read in the papers that there will be a new CEO for NLB from the 15th of this month. I want to take this opportunity to thank all the customers of NLB who have made it a real pleasure to serve all of you these past 6 years as your library chief.

18. Thank you.